Walt Disney’s grandson heir demands ‘biased’ California judge is fired for denying his $200million inheritance and falsely claiming he has Down syndrome
- Walt Disney’s grandson Bradford Lund, 50, has been locked in a 15-year battle with his twin sister Michelle over their $400million inheritance
- Bradford asked state judicial watchdog to remove LA County Superior Court Judge David Cowan for alleged ethics violation
- The Arizona resident said on Thursday that Cowan denied him $200million inheritance by claiming he had Down syndrome – despite a negative DNA test
- Late mother Sharon died in 1993 and appointed trustees to approve payments when the twins reached 35 – if they were ‘mentally capable’
- Michelle received payments but Bradford did not after trustees found him ‘incapable’
- Lund claims he is trapped in a probate system susceptible to ‘predators’ including ‘hostile trustees’ paid $1million a year
- Judge Cowan, also involved in probate case over killer Charles Manson’s body, has removed himself from the case
Walt Disney’s grandson has accused a California judge of denying him his $200million inheritance by falsely claiming he has Down syndrome, in the latest instalment of a 15-year legal battle to prove he is mentally capable.
Bradford Lund, 50, asked the state’s judicial watchdog to remove LA County Superior Court Judge David Cowan, for an alleged ethics violation during a probate hearing of the cartoon king’s will, claiming: ‘He’s unsuited to be a judge’.
In letters filed to the California Commission on Judicial Performance on Thursday, Bradford and his stepmother Sherry claim that Cowan made false ‘personal’ remarks and showed ‘bias’ by siding with ‘hostile trustees’ who receive $1million a year as long as delays continue.
In June last year Cowan is alleged to have said in open court: ‘Do I want to give 200 million dollars effectively to someone who may suffer from Down syndrome? The answer is no.’
Bradford, of Arizona, claims that a DNA test from a previous hearing proved that he did not have the condition and was able to manage his own financial affairs.
Bradford Lund, pictured in an undated photograph issued by his lawyers, is the grandson of Walt Disney, and has been fighting a 15-year legal battle to prove himself mentally capable of receiving his inheritance
Walt Disney founded his famous cartoon studio in 1923, which was known for family-friendly entertainment. Disney poses in front of a scene with his signature creation Mickey Mouse at Anaheim, California, in 1950
Walt Disney started his world-famous famous cartoon studio in 1923 which turned into an empire founded on family friendly entertainment, worth an estimated $130billion today.
He died in 1966, four years before his twin grandchildren were born, leaving a portion of his fortune, around $1.2billion in 2020, to his daughters Diane and Sharon and their descendants.
Bradford has been locked in a bitter family feud with his twin sister Michelle after their mother Sharon died of breast cancer in 1993 aged 56, leaving them her portion of the empire when they turn 35, as long as three appointed trustees find them ‘mentally capable’.
In a press conference on Thursday Bradford’s attorney, Lanny J.Davis, said of Judge Cowan: ‘He’s shown himself to be willing to act with bias, personal animus, makes willing false statements … he’s unsuited to be a judge’, as reported in The OC Register.
He added: ‘Judge Cowan’s defense that he … used the word ‘may’ ignores the fact that he knew the word ‘may’ was contradicted by the genetic test.’
Michelle Lund, pictured in 2014 at Operation Smile Gala at the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, received payouts but her brother did not
Walt Disney, pictured with his wife on the Queen Elizabeth in 1950, left a portion of his fortune to his daughters, Diane, 16, (left) and Sharon, 13, mother of twins Bradford and Michelle
Down Syndrome is a condition in which a person has an extra chromosome, according to the CDC.
This extra copy changes how the baby’s body and brain develop, which can cause both mental and physical challenges for the baby.
Even though people with Down syndrome might act and look similar, each person has different abilities.
People with Down syndrome usually have an IQ (a measure of intelligence) in the mildly-to-moderately low range and are slower to speak than other children.
Some common physical features of Down syndrome include:
A flattened face, especially the bridge of the nose
Almond-shaped eyes that slant up
A short neck
A tongue that tends to stick out of the mouth
Tiny white spots on the iris (colored part) of the eye
Small hands and feet
A single line across the palm of the hand (palmar crease)
Small pinky fingers that sometimes curve toward the thumb
Poor muscle tone or loose joints
Shorter in height as children and adults
Lawyers also claimed that Cowan showed ‘personal animus’ towards Bradford and that he made dozens of inappropriate statements attacking Bradford’s lawyer, Sandra Slaton of Scottsdale, Arizona.
Slaton had filed a federal lawsuit against Cowan on Lund’s behalf for the Down syndrome remark.
The lawsuit was dismissed on a technicality and is pending appeal.
Cowan, a veteran probate judge also involved in a 2018 legal battle over killer Charles Manson’s body, has removed himself from the Lund case and is no longer sitting in probate court.
Before Cowan’s recent departure, he is alleged to have issued an order demanding that Slaton show why she shouldn’t be disqualified from the case for an alleged ‘conflict of interest’.
Cowan alleged that Slaton’s husband was a witness in a previous probate case for Bradford in Arizona, something Bradford’s lawyers deny.
The decade’s long battle has shone a light on a divided family.
The problems started when the Lund twins’ mother Sharon stipulated in her will that they would receive inheritance payouts on their 35th, 40th and 45th birthdays- but only if they demonstrated the necessary mental stability.
She appointed three trustees, which at the time included her husband Bill, a real-estate agent who scouted the Orlando, Florida, Disney World location, and her sister Diane.
Each trustee receives $1million a year until the twins’ payments were made.
The caveat, and its interpretation by the trustees after the twins turned 35 in 2005, has led to accusations of mental incompetence, incest and conspiracy.
On one side of the lawsuit is Brad, his lawyers and his stepmother, Sherry, the fifth wife of his late father Bill, who died in 2008 aged 83.
The trustees decided Brad lacked the mental capabilities and refused his payouts.
On the other side is the Michelle and the trustees, who was awarded her millions, despite accusations of a drug addiction and following a nearly fatal brain aneurysm in 2009 that left her with alleged uncertain mental abilities.
Bradford’s lawyers claim that the probate system, which is designed to protect the elderly and disabled from being financially abused, is susceptible to corruption and fraud.
The longer the client is deemed incapable of managing his or her own affairs, the longer the guardian, attorneys and others get paid and the client has now say, Bradford’s lawyers claim.
‘It’s the court’s dirty little secret’, Bradford’s lawyer Slaton said on Thursday.
FAMILIAL DISNEY-CORD: WHAT STARTED THE BATTLE OVER $400M FORTUNE?
Once close siblings, Walt Disney’s grandkids Michelle and Brad Lund are now embroiled in a battle over their $400million inheritance and haven’t spoken in four years.
On one side are Brad Lund, 50, and the twins’ late father Bill Lund, who died in 2008 aged 83. They say the trustees, who haven’t paid Brad his multi-million installments in years, are controlling Michelle like a ‘robot.’
In the other corner are Michelle and the trustees. They say Brad is mentally incompetent and cannot handle the millions and go so far as to suggest he has Down’s Syndrome.
THE FEUD BEGINS
The battle began Labor Day 2009 after Michelle had a near fatal aneurysm.
As she fought for her life, her father tried to move her to Arizona, where he lives.
The trustees then filed suit to stop him. When Michelle recovered, she joined them.
Now Bill is fighting alongside Brad to wrest control of Brad’s funds away from the trustees.
They she suffered brain damage as a result of her aneurysm.
WORRIES OVER COMPETENCE
After the suit over where Michelle should be treated came a suit over Brad’s care.
He had been living for years with Bill, a stepsister, and Bill’s current wife Sherry.
But family including the twins’ half sisters (Bill’s daughter’s from another marriage) and the twins’ aunt Diane Disney Miller (the older sister of their mother Sharon) worried he was being used for his money.
VIEW A FAMILY TREE OF THE FEUDING PARTIES
In a Maricopa County, Arizona court filing, they called him ‘a virtual captive’ in the home, though brad has denied this.
‘I trusted him, I loved him, I admired him,’ Michelle told The Arizona Republic. ‘Now, I love him, not the way I used to. He is not the man I once knew.’
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